February 19, 2014

Gridlink - Longhena

Written by Matt Hinch.

Grind is spelled G-R-I-D-L-I-N-K.

2009 was a very troubled year for me. The Dark Days as I call them. Late that year I took an anger management class. Not because of a court order or anything, or violent outbursts so much. No, I took it because I could feel it inside me. I wanted to stop it. The class itself was a bunch of hooey but one "assignment" was cool. Bring in a song that describes how you feel about yourself. I took in a track from Gridlink's Amber Gray. I still don't know what the lyrics were, but how Gridlink "feel" was how I felt. An intense ball of negative energy; frantic and unstable, teetering on the brink of annihilation through either collapse or explosion. While Buddhist practices calmed this savage beast, Gridlink raged on with Orphan and now sadly, the monster that is Jon Chang and company is being put to rest as well. But not without one final detonation of devastation in Longhena.

For the band's swansong they take their sweet time. Relatively speaking. On previous records the longest tracks were 1:20 and 1:27 respectively. On Longhena there are SIX (of 14) tracks eclipsing the 1:27 mark, three of which are over two minutes and the final track clocks in at a Tolkien-esque 3:11. It appears Gridlink are leaving nothing behind but shattered eardrums.

Chang (vocals) and his Hayaino Daisuke cohorts Takafumi Matsubara (guitars) and Teddy Patterson III (bass) along with drummer Bryan Fajardo end Gridlink's legacy in typical fashion. (It does not appear guitarist Steve Procopio appears on this release.) They smash through barriers with boundless energy and a complete disregard for the rules of physics. Lightspeed is for sissies. As Chang does his level best to give Melissa Cross nightmares, the rest of the band does the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

Their balls-out intensity is on display right from the get-go on "Constant Autumn" with the requisite subtleties that make Gridlink so good. The end of the track features some strings that foreshadow the third track "Thirst Watcher". Are you sitting down? It's an instrumental. Nothing but violins (Joey Molinaro) and gentle strummed and finger-picked guitar that wouldn't sound out of place on a Monster Magnet album. Strange. Good, but strange.

Much of the rest of Longhena consists of the sort of blitzkrieg intensity we've come to know and love. The frenzied, face-smashing riffs in "Taibas", the tremulous melodies of "The Dodonpachi", the jangliness, discordance and mournfulness of "Island Sun", the dirty-as-fuck nimbleness of "Black Prairie", the list goes on of flat-out grind awesomeness. The way Gridlink are able to craft powerfully violent songs and still remain infectiously catchy is a skill few are able to master.

On "The Last Raven" we hear Chang step out of character and growl like a demon. Paul Pavlovich of Assuck also lends his beastly roar on "Chalk Maple". These forays into the lower registers serve an effective counter to Chang's piercing screech. When it comes right down to it, a break from Chang's usual voice isn't something the listener yearns for but it's pretty cool to hear anyway.

Whether Gridlink are dragging your bloody body behind a car at 100mph, getting all mind-fuck skronky, or working their way up the frets as a device for climax they do it all with such force and intensity. Some or all of them are going completely off the rails at all times but with total control. Matsubara and Patterson's speed and dexterity, Fajardo's inhumanity and Chang's pure, primal, cathartic release are knotted so tightly and so perfectly that Gridlink's demise is a tragic loss for grindkind.

Now, earlier I referenced a negative ball of energy. That is not to say Gridlink are a negative entity. Far from it. Personally, and I'm probably not alone, I see Gridlink as an entirely positive band. The way the band fires up the adrenaline and provides an outlet for the release of pent up aggression through screaming or moshing or whatever (like the incessant kitchen counter drumming of the past few days) is a wholly positive experience. Listening to Longhena and all of Gridlink's catalog is a way to let go. Let it out in a good way. It's freedom.

As Chang's final Gridlinkian scream dies away at the end of "Look to Winward", all that's left to say is "Glorious. Just fucking glorious."

Thank you, Gridlink.

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